Date: Thu, 29 Jan 1998 11:59:30 -0500
Cc: "Mahlon H. Smith" ,
    Lewis Reich ,
Subject: Re: 1st c. burials

On Thu, 29 Jan 1998, Mark Goodacre wrote:


> Whether or not you think Jesus was buried, Paul and the other early
> Christians certainly thought that he was (1 Cor. 15.4, as we have been
> discussing)

Well, Mark, I think we should be cautious in accepting the attribution of
this passage as certain.


> Further, consider Philo:
> "I have known instances before now of men who had been crucified when 
> this festival and holiday was at hand, being taken down and given up 
> to their relations, in order to receive the honours of sepulture, and 
> to enjoy such observances as are due to the dead.  For it used to be 
> considered, that even the dead ought to derive some enjoyment from 
> the natal festival of a good emperor, and also that the sacred 
> character of the festival ought to be regarded" (*In Flaccum*, 83).

But this is not directly relevant. The case above is exceptional. The case
above relates to the Roman and most definitely not to a Jewish holiday --
big difference. The crime punished above is unlikely to have been
political. The body was given to _relations_. In our case, all this is

> The burial of Jesus is a matter that is multiply attested: the 
> Synoptics (Joseph of Arimathea), Paul who "received" it "as of first 
> importance" (1 Cor. 15.4), John 19.31-37 ("Jews"), Acts 13.29 ("those 
> who live in Jerusalem and their rulers"). 

You're right about multiple attestations. But in this case this will only
indicate that the tradition is early enough. But is it the earliest
tradition? I don't think so.

> And it makes sound 
> historical sense in the light of the above quotation from Philo, 
> particularly when viewed also in the light of Deut. 21 (criterion of 
> coherence). 

The big question is, Would the Roman military government have been so
"sensitive" to Jewish religious customs in the case where they were trying
to suppress what they perceived as Jewish religious extremism. I don't
think so. But even if they were, the burial would have been most likely

Since they perceived Jesus as a dangerous political subversive, I can see
absolutely no way at all how they could have given the body to his
followers. To his family? A slight possibility here. But this is not what
the gospels say.

The Romans were not so naive. To the contrary, any follower who would have
been foolhardy enough to ask for the body almost certainly would have been
arrested in turn and executed.

> When one places this data alongside the claim above 
> which is not even singly attested, I think I know which option most 
> critics will plump for.

The option that squares fully with the historical and political reality of
the time. 

> Could Crossan really think this?  What has happened to his emphasis 
> on  careful tradition-history sifting of the evidence that 
> characterises his work elsewhere?

His reconstruction seems reasonable on the whole. Of the 3 possibilities

1. No burial.
2. Anonimous burial by the authorities.
3. Tomb burial.

I consider #3 as entirely unbelievable. OTOH, both #1 and #2 are possible.
Myself, I incline to #2. 



Click here to go one level up in the directory.